Monday, March 31, 2014

Looking Back (III) The Joke That Wasn't Pinned On Me, Thank God

As published April 2nd, 2006

Spring forward, and lose all your clothing.

Hey, everybody! How's about an hour's less sleep?
April Fool's!
What? You thought I was April Fooling you? Well, April Fool's allover that!

When I worked for 7-Eleven, I was always scheduled every 'spring forward' night. I used to dread every night store was surrounded by bars catering to the student crowd, and students, as a rule, drink to excess on nights ending in "y". Thursdays through Saturdays were the worst, as even the poorest students scrounged up enough money to intoxicate themselves on those nights. And of course, special occasions like New Year's Eve, Octoberfest, Hallowe'en (and its attendant Devil's Night), the return of the swallows to Capistrano, any of those and a dozen more would provoke an orgy of casual shoplifting and bring threats of violence or vandalism.
But 'spring forward' night was unique, its own special breed of hell.

Drunken louts aside, the actual job of working a night shift at a 7-Eleven store was much more demanding than you'd imagine. On most nights you were on your own, and the list of things to be cleaned ran to twice the length of the store. Some of these things--Slurpee machines, Cafe Cooler machines--required disassembly and thorough scrubbing/sanitizing in the back room. The cooler would need stocking at least twice on busy nights. There was a cornucopia of baked goods to prepare. The coffee was supposed to be dumped and remade every ten minutes...I can pretty much assure you that never happened, not when you'd be lucky to sell one cup of coffee between 11:00 and about 4:45.
Everything in the store used to have to be counted once a week for ordering purposes, and night shift had its share. Separate to that was the counting and ordering of sandwiches, burgers, also supplies. Then you'd have to do the milk order at some point...the Coke order...the Pepsi order...the Nestle order. And I've barely scratched the surface. Customers? We doan need no steenkin customers!
I dreaded the arrival, every April like, uh, clockwork, of the night when I had to forfeit an hour and still complete the list. Corners would have to be cut, and for most of those years my boss was a woman who simply would not accept corner-cutting. I'd hope like hell on these nights that a huge wind would come up out of nowhere and sweep my lot clean for me, saving me half an hour amongst the litter of cigarette butts, discarded fast food wrappers (very little of it from our store) and broken beer bottles.

Now, of course, I'm back to working days, and my clock-forward angst has been reduced to a bitter memory. The most onerous task we have now is changing all the fricking clocks in here. Invariably we forget one of them; just as invariably we forget how to change one of them--usually the one in the car. One year I just let the car clock show the wrong time for six months. Our car became a time machine, existing one hour in the past. Hell, the VCR in the bedroom just came into phase with the real time, after six months of being an hour ahead. It didn't matter: there were three other clocks in the room.
Everything these days has a clock attached to it. A rough count in this house yields no fewer than twenty three timepieces, only a few of which are smart enough to change themselves over to Daylight Savings and back. That's almost five clocks apiece for me, my wife, our dog, and our two cats. Total overkill. And guess what? Given large amounts of money, I'd like nothing better than to add to the collection. Only I wouldn't bother with one more electronic device irradiating the night with glowy green digits. You can damn near read a book at midnight in our kitchen as it is. No, I'd get a grandfather clock, a cuckoo clock...a seven-day clock...any handmade clock with character or quirkiness.
Ever seen a Kit Kat Clock? No, it's not a clock in the shape of a chocolate bar. It's shaped just like a little kitten. Its tail wags like a pendulum and its eyes go back and forth every second, and I think it's adorable. I saw it in Stratford a few years ago and instantly adopted a kittenish begging posture. Please? I mewed at Eva. She looked at me as if I had lost my mind. See, I thought this thing was kitschy, as in 'kitschy-kitschy coo". My wife thought the Kit Kat Clock was the Icreepiest thing she'd ever seen. She stared down my miaowing and announced that I could get that clock so long as I got a divorce first.
Sigh. This from the same woman who proudly displays a picture of a cat-burger. That's right: not a cat burglar: a cat burger... a picture of a hamburger with all the fixings, just one of which is an orange tabby. Oh, well. One of the things that everyone learns as their marriage grows is that their spouse is not only freakier than they had supposed, but freakier than they can suppose.

Where was I going with this post? I have no idea.

April Fool's. Despite having inherited some of my father's legendary aptitude for practical jokery, I never was much for this. There's no fun in punking people on a day when they're expecting it.
The best April Fool's joke ever played on me came in my second year of university. I came home after pulling an all-nighter in the library to find my entire wardrobe missing. Very funny, guys, I thought. Okay, I'll bite: where the hell did you hide my clothes?
"We put them in green garbage bags..." said one housemate.
"...and I put them out in the shed, " said another.
So, like a schlemiel, I gallumphed out to the shed.
No clothes.
Back in I went. Yeah--guys...ha, ha, April Fool's and all where are they, really?
"I put them in the shed!" Indignant.
"Well, they're not there now."
"Of course they are...big green Glad bags, three of them. I put them out there a couple of hours ago."
Then it dawned on me.
Garbage day.
Today was garbage day.
The chore list said it was Mario's turn to put out the trash. Housemate number three...the one I hadn't seen yet...the one who had pulled his own all-nighter last night, came home, done his trashly duty, and gone to bed.
And of course the fucking garbage truck had picked this day to do our street first. Our entire street was free of garbage, and I was left with the clothes I was wearing. If I looked really hard, I might find a spare sock under my bed.
I went downstairs and pounded on Mario's bedroom door.
"Mario! Sorry to wake you, man, but did you take out the garbage?"
"Yeah! What the fuck? Let me sleep!"
"Were there three big green Glad bags?"
He sounded a little more awake now. "Yeah. Why? What was in there?"
"Oh, nothing, just ALL MY FUCKING CLOTHES!!!"
His door opened, and he clenched his eyes against either the sunlight or my own harsh glare.
"Oh, shit, sorry, man, I didn't look at the stuff, I just put it out!" What the fuck were your clothes doing in the garbage?"
"It's April Fool's Day! These assholes" -- I pointed at my housemates, who looked woebegone -- "decided to play a little joke on me! They took all my clothes and put them in garbage bags and put them out in the shed and you put them out to the curb and now they're gone FUCKING ASSHOLES! That's, like, a thousand bucks worth of clothing!"
I stomped upstairs, lost in a red haze. This was the thing about practical jokes: sometimes they backfired. Sometimes they went a lot further than they were supposed to. And damn it, I had no clothes!
"Where the fuck's the phone book?"
"Right here", said one of the assholes. I couldn't believe he had the balls to still be in here. I felt like killing him.
I called City Hall, explained the situation, and asked them if I was as screwed as I thought I was.
The guy on the other end of the phone line snickered at me. I clenched my fists and thought really hard about teleporting through the phone line and strangling him.
"Are you sure your room-mates threw out your clothes?"
"YES I'M SURE!" I fumed.
"Well, they're gone," he said. "You might want to think about calling a lawyer."
Funny, I'd already thought of that.
I had a shower, got back into my only set of clothes, and trudged off to class. When I came home later that morning and opened the door to my bedroom, I beheld three large green Glad bags full of my clothes. Turned out everybody had been in on this. Mario had hid the bags in his closet the whole time.
April Fool's.

I got them back, though...or rather, I got the ringleader back. And my practical joke actually did backfire. It went a lot further than I had intended. In fact, I honestly believe my target would have cheerfully killed me had he ever so much as suspected me...


Rereading this, it occurs to me I never did tell what it was I did in revenge. 
One of my housemates--his dad actually owned the place, and I think he might own it himself now--was an Italian kid who used to get mortally offended at my love of Kraft Dinner. He was also the biggest homophobe I ever met in my life. I mean, this guy would have been right there with Fred Phelps.  It seemed to me that such over-the-top hatred was just ripe for mockery.
So several weeks after my clothes vanished and then reappeared, my girlfriend at the time and I, we went porn shopping. The store down the road had a wide selection of pornographic magazines. I had never had occasion to browse, let alone purchase, any of the gay porn, but browse and purchase we did that day. In bulk.
Then we had a gay old time (ha-ha) cutting and pasting. We must have snipped twenty or thirty pics from various magazines. We even framed a close-up shot of a particularly large penis. A few of the mags were left whole, the better to put under (and on) his bed.

Carm was usually diligent about locking his bedroom door, but bedroom door locks can be defeated with bobby pins, of the sort my girlfriend usually carried. This of course is (ahem) illegal...but since my clothes had been safely (!) ensconced behind a locked bedroom door, it really didn't seem to matter overmuch.

Well, the framed penis was tacked up over his really did look quite ravishing up there, if the angle of your dangle was right for that sort of thing, of course. The rest of the smut was scattered come-hither and yon. And then we closed the door and waited for Carm to come home.

With his girlfriend.

AND his parents.

This would have been okay except Carm, for some bedevilled reason, had to bring everybody up to his bedroom. 

I am a klutz and I have done stupid things and I am INTIMATELY familiar with the sort of horror that first dawns, then grows, then suffuses everything as you realize events are spiralling completely out of your control. Never have I felt that horror so acutely than I did watching the whole fam-damily troop up those stairs. In this case there wasn't a thing I can say or do without bringing hell down upon me.

The roar that came out of that boy was not human. It was ursine, Lovecraftian, something out of time and space. He stampeded down the stairs and I swear he had murder in his eyes. He confronted everybody in the house in turn. I denied any wrongdoing, and I did it with a straight face. While I am known for being completely see-through--I have never played poker, because there is just no point--on that occasion, at least, I successfully told several barefaced lies out of sheer self-preservation. 

It's been more than twenty years. I hope the statute of limitations applies. 

No comments: